PORT-AU-PRINCE—In response to the recent outbreak of cholera in Haiti, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is adapting 22,000 standard hygiene kits to include items that could reduce or prevent the spread of the epidemic. That includes adding aqua tablets and additional soap to hygiene kits in stock, and including portable water filters (Life Straws) and oral rehydration salts to 10,000 additional kits the Fund is purchasing. UNFPA warns that cholera may increase the risk of miscarriages and premature births, and may put people living with HIV and other conditions that compromise their immune systems at high risk.
A recent survey conducted by UNFPA revealed that there are now three times as many pregnant women in the areas affected by the earthquake, compared to the situation before the disaster—with an increase from 4 to 12 per cent among women aged 15 to 49. “We are expecting a significant increase in deliveries between next month and April 2011,” said Igor Bosc, UNFPA Representative in Haiti. “It is important that we act now by strengthening maternity wards in hospitals and clinics to enable them to respond to obstetric emergencies as they arise.”
Pregnant women living with HIV run a double risk in that they have a weakened immune system and are more likely to have a miscarriage or give birth prematurely. “Programmes designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV must take the epidemic and the increased vulnerabilities into consideration,” said Mr. Bosc.
Following the 12 January earthquake, UNFPA has distributed more than 40,000 regular hygiene kits, containing sanitary napkins, antibacterial soap and several other hygiene and cleaning supplies that allow women to live in dignity, even under difficult circumstances.
In order to reinforce prevention efforts by the Haitian Government, UNFPA will train a group of young people on how to convey messages about hygiene among the displaced population. The group has previously worked with UNFPA in distributing aid supplies and disseminating information in the aftermath of the earthquake and other disasters.
UNFPA is supporting Haiti in carrying out an Interim Health Plan designed after the earthquake. The plan emphasizes an integrated approach to reproductive health care, including the prevention of gender-based violence, as well as the development of basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care.
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